EasyIVR Tech Library
Telephone Answering Services
This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to answering service systems and phone answering services. At Database Systems Corp. (DSC), we offer complete inbound call center and outbound automated phone services. Our inbound call center processes phone calls using our interactive voice response (IVR) system that answers calls without an operator.
Organizations looking to reduce costs and to improve customer service can now contract their inbound 800 answering service and outbound voice messaging programs at our automated call center facility.
As designers of call answering systems and phone answering service software, DSC is uniquely positioned to manage your call answering service and 800 number service campaigns saving your organization both time and money. Because our phone answering service software was created in-house, we can deliver comprehensive 800 number outsourcing quickly -- providing you with a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
From external database access to web integration including XML messaging, DSC can provide very custom phone applications. Plus you will find our 800 phone service to be quite affordable.
Answering the Call: Phones and your Business
By Carly Foster
Have I got the cheapest plan? Do I have enough lines? What about cell phones? Will it work in my area? Does it come with voice mail?
Considering all of the phone requirements needed for small business today – and the excess of options available – it can be difficult to determine the best provider for you. Choosing a company for the best phone lines and equipment can be confusing and time consuming.
We asked Cherie Lynne Gillen, an independent telecom consultant with Schooley Mitchell Telecom Consulting, to offer some strategies to sort through the maze of wires leading up to the right plan for your business.
The System Audit
Before you start to shop around for a phone company, you need to understand your own business requirements first. The best route for this is to examine your existing system and determine if it's meeting your expectations.
To perform an audit of your current phone system, ask yourself the following questions:
- How many lines do you currently have and how are they used?
This will determine if you have too many, or need more phone lines. Has your business grown to need more lines? Can you do without one? Do you need separate lines for personal and business lives?
- What features do you have on each of the lines? Do you use them all?
This should examine the add-ons of your phone system: call waiting, voice mail, call messaging, caller ID, call screening, 3-way conferencing etc. Are you using all of them to their full potential? Do you need some new additions?
- Are you happy with your billing system? Is all of your phone equipment by the same company?
Having a confusing billing system – with equipment, internal phone configuration, and cell phones – on separate bills from different companies can be overwhelming for a business. This also leaves room to be overcharged, as it's difficult to keep track of everything. You might consider going with one company for everything, or devising a system to accurately asses your bills each month.
- What will my business look like in 2 years? Will there be any additions made or different configurations needed at that time?
Do a look into the future – if you know you'll be needing steady add-ons and new phone lines down the road, sticking to a company that can make those changes for you hassle free and quickly will be a time and money saver for your business.
Choosing a Long Distance Plan
When choosing a long distance plan, you must again analyze your company needs. Gillen recommends looking at your particular calling patterns – where you call, when you call, and for how long you call.
Consider your businesses calling areas – are they mostly in province long distance? Across Canada? International? If you're calling Hong Kong three times a day, and only have national long distance rates, then you're losing money. And don't be paying for an international plan if your clients are all in Alberta. Be sure to choose the most cost-effective plan for your business.
Once you are armed with this information you can make an informed choice of plans. All of the plans in the marketplace today are very close in price. Flat rate plans can be cost effective if your calling pattern warrants them. However, they can be more costly than cost per minute plans if you do not use them properly – once again it is all dependant on your particular calling pattern.
Staying connected with the office and clients is essential in today's world, so purchasing a cell phone is a common route many businesses are taking.
"Choosing a cellular service provider can be very tricky," Gillen said. "You must research the coverage of your area and choose a provider that has few 'dead zones'."
Dead zones occur when transmission signals are weak, or all together dead. The signals are sent out from towers – therefore, geography is a large factor when choosing a cell phone provider. Areas where the terrain is hilly and mountainous is a common dead or weak zone.
"Be careful when choosing a digital plan," she said. "Some of the providers do not include analog minutes in a digital plan – and these can be charged at a premium over and above the digital minutes used. Your phone will automatically switch to analog if it needs to, and you can get charged up to 20 cents a minute without knowing it."
Don't rely on your telecom business to provide you with the best rates for long distance and equipment. Make it your businesses' priority to fully understand your invoices – and ensure you're not being duped in the process.
"My company once did an analysis for one of our clients and found that they were still being charged for the lines and features they had been using at a different location 2 years ago!" Gillen said. "When we pointed these cost out to them, we were able to obtain a very large refund for the billing error. However, nobody looked closely at the bills to ensure that they were only paying for what they currently had."
Here are Gillen's easy tips to avoid being overcharged on your phone bill:
Obtain and understand your equipment record. These are usually on the bill under "equipment and services" or "monthly service charges." Do an inventory of your phone equipment – it's definitely be worth your while to ensure that you are using everything that you are being billed for.
Research discounts. Make sure you receive all of the discounts for which you qualify, including volume discounts, time of day discounts and weekend rates.
Be vigilant when you make changes to your system. When you cancel a service or disconnect a line, make sure the charges disappear from your bills. If you have dedicated access lines such as a WATS or data lines, make sure you are not being double charged – many special access lines can be billed by different vendors.
"Your telephone bills can be cut up to 20% just by carefully auditing your bills," Gillen said. "Many errors benefit the supplier, so make sure you pay for only what you use."
Avoid Information Overload
With almost a dozen cell/telephone providers on the marketplace today, choosing who to go with is a hard task.
"Again, the costs are all dependent on where you are and the volume you use," Gillen said. "Many providers have volume discounts over and above the published cost per minute. A good resource to use would be the Internet, where all of the providers have a costing plan included with their web page."